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broodings from the burrow

January 16, 2019

into the stacks 2019: january, part 1
posted by soe 2:57 am

January is a month for beginning as you mean to go on. So I thought, even as I need to put together my end-of-year reviews for 2018, that I would share what I’ve read in the first half of the month.

So far this year, I have finished three books. The first was an audiobook I started during my drive to Connecticut for Christmas, but the other two were new reads begun this month:

When Santa Fell to Earth, by Cornelia Funke

When, in mid-December, the sleigh/caravan of Niklas Goodfellow, the last real Santa Claus left on earth, crashes in a small town and his reindeer, Twinkletoes, runs off, Niklas and his comrades (two small angels and a group of grumpy elves) must scramble. Not only do they need to make repairs to the caravan and find their reindeer, but they must learn what the local children want for Christmas while evading detection by the evil dictator of the North Pole, Jeremiah Goblynch, and his gang of evil Nutcracker goons. Goblynch, who only gives children mass-produced presents and asks only the parents what they’d like their kids to receive, has enslaved or killed all the other Santas, turned the reindeer into meat, and turned the elves out into the freezing wilds of the North Pole — and he’s gunning for Niklas, who has already escaped his clutches once. Luckily two children loyal to the idea of Santa Claus — Ben and Charlotte — have found Niklas and are actively working to help him save Christmas.

Funke narrates the audiobook, giving the story more of a European flair with her German accent than I might otherwise have ascribed to it. I liked, but didn’t love the story, but would definitely seek out a print copy of the story to see the illustrations, and would recommend it for older children who are starting to question holiday traditions. Also, I thought this would make a fantastic film — either for the big screen or the small — but it turns out it’s already been adapted, way back in 2011. However, it was made in German and overdubbed in English, and has a limited DVD availability. So, I guess I still stand by the statement, pending some way to watch the version that’s been made.

Pages: 167. I borrowed an audiobook version from the library, which I listened to on my phone.

The Hollow of Fear, by Sherry Thomas

The Lady Sherlock series keeps getting stronger. In this, the third installation, which begins at the exact moment the second concludes, Charlotte must add a new role to her repertoire. In addition to playing Sherlock Holmes, noted consulting detective, she must also add the role of his brother, Sherrinford, whom she must play in drag, in order to come to the rescue of Lord Ashcroft Ingram, who has been accused of murder at his country estate.

Without giving away spoilers about what has happened thus in previous installments, all of your favorite characters from the series stop in. Livia has a larger role to play in this book, which made me happy, but Mrs. Watson and her niece get much smaller pieces of the pie. The Marbletons make brief cameos, with the promise of a larger role in the next novel for one of them. Elder sister Bernadine is not forgotten, nor is half brother Myron, and we are introduced to yet another Ashcroft brother — Remington. And Inspector Treadles makes a triumphant comeback from his petty reaction in the first novel, giving him some of the best growth in the series thus far.

If you have already read the first two novels in this series, you will be delighted by this one, which promises plenty of twists and lots of deduction. And if you haven’t yet embarked upon the series, I urge you to do so. A feminist Victorian-era take on the most famous detective in literature awaits! And you can spread out the first three novels before the fourth comes out in the fall!

And, yes, this, too, would make a great adaptation for the screen!

Pages: 326. Personal copy.

Dear Mrs. Bird, by A.J. Pearce

Emmy Lake, who has long aspired to be a war correspondent, finally gets her break when she answers an ad at the London Evening Chronicle seeking a junior. So caught up is she in the romance of her dream being nearly realized, she neglects to ask any questions about the job during her interview, a mistake she soon realizes when it turns out that she’s been hired to work as a typist for the grouchy editor of the newspaper’s sister publication, a neglected weekly women’s magazine. When the editor (the titular Mrs. Bird), who doubles as the magazine’s misanthropic agony aunt, presents Emmy with an extensive list of topics she has deemed Unsuitable — including nearly every one Emmy thinks relevant to the tumultuous early days of World War II — Emmy decides to start sending back her own advice under her boss’ name.

In between, Emmy and her childhood BFF, Bunty, shelter from the German air raids, go on dates (Emmy gets jilted early in the book, but Bunty has a longtime beau, who is a shift commander at the fire brigade where Emmy volunteers several nights a week) and generally try to live as bright a life as 20-somethings can behind their blackout curtains and dim torches.

Reading this book gave me a twinge of sadness because I would have loved to talk with my grandmother about it. She wouldn’t have read it — it made her too sad to see detailed retellings of a war she survived — but she would have appreciated the contemporary slang and the context of carrying on — and excelling — even under great duress.

Three for three endorsements for an adaptation. I’m not sure this is feature film material, but it would make a great Masterpiece addition.

Pages: 281. Library copy.

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January 15, 2019

top ten new to me authors from 2018
posted by soe 1:25 am

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic at That Artsy Reader girl asks about the new-to-me authors I read last year that I liked best. I read a lot of favorite authors and series last year, but there were still some great new additions to my reading repertoire:

  1. Amor Towles: To say I kept forgetting A Gentleman in Moscow was fiction is a compliment of highest order. I look forward to checking out his debut novel, Rules of Civility, next.
  2. Elizabeth Acevedo: I started two of her books — her poetry collection, Beastgirl and Other Origin Myths and her debut verse novel, The Poet X, which won the National Book Award for young people and which I nominated for the Cybils poetry category — last year that I haven’t yet finished, but that is more an indication of where my head is than of her writing. It will be embarrassing when she wins the Cybil and I haven’t finished reading the book I nominated, so I plan to check that off my list soon.
  3. Kevin Kwan: I didn’t have any interest in reading Crazy Rich Asians when it (or its sequels came out), but the movie trailer and then the film itself piqued my interest. His riff on Jane Austen was well executed and lots of fun and I look forward to reading more of his work.
  4. Michelle Obama: I was already a fan of our former First Lady, but her Becoming has been a wonderful listen. I haven’t finished reading it, but will soon.
  5. Ashley Blake Herring wrote the adorable middle grade novel Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, which uses the combined forces of an Emily Dickinson poem and a tornado to great effect in a novel about first crushes and sexual orientation.
  6. Karina Yan Glaser: Her middle-grade debut, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, offered a glimpse into a working-class biracial family of seven who are about to be displaced from their Harlem home at the holidays. Reminiscent of and as timeless as the Melendys and the Penderwicks, but wholly modern. I look forward to revisiting the family in Yan Glaser’s sequel.
  7. Jennifer Mathieu: Her YA novel, Moxie, is an enjoyable look at teen girls, zines, and feminism set in a small Texas town that shuts down for Friday night football games and reveres the boys who play it. She penned a #MeToo antidote to toxic masculinity for the next generation.
  8. Jons Mellgren: In his unique heart-breaking and heart-healing picture book, Elsa and the Night, this Swedish author-artist shares the story of a badger named Elsa, who doesn’t sleep anymore in the wake of the death of her friend and who captures the Night, who she finds hiding under her table, in a cookie jar. Without Night coming at the end of each day, though, the rest of the world no longer works quite right. But the Night and Elsa can maybe help each other out.
  9. David Grann: My fellow Conn College Camel has penned a fascinating and depressing expose of a forgotten period of American history. Killers of the Flower Moon looks at a tribe of fabulously wealthy Osage Indians, who were denied the right to look after their own finances by a racist U.S. government and then murdered one-by-one for their money and oil rights.
  10. Andrew Shaffer: Hope Never Dies is a laugh-out-loud buddy flick of a book starring Joe Biden and Barack Obama as our crime-solving heroes. He gets the voices right and takes neither his protagonists nor his text too seriously, serving up precisely the book you want to read. Others agree and he has a sequel due out later this year.

How about you? Who were your favorite newly discovered writers last year?

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January 14, 2019

more snow
posted by soe 1:53 am

Gandhi in the early morning:

Gandhi, 6 a.m.

Gandhi in the early afternoon:

Gandhi, 1 p.m.

After returning home from the farmers market early this afternoon, I didn’t venture further than the end of the block, so I can’t give you any further updates, but it continued to snow for another 10 hours or so after this.

The snow finally tapered off around midnight after about 10 inches and nearly 30 hours of snowfall (in addition to all the flurrying it did yesterday afternoon). It started out fluffy and easy to shovel, but after it warmed up this morning, it definitely got damper and more solid. A peek up at the sidewalk suggests that our mid-evening ice melt application has kept things from refreezing, so a final pass with the shovel in the morning should finish it off on our corner, other than the occasional clearing I’ll need to do to the curb cuts after the plows go through and then when the melting snow floods them. (Woe to those who waited to shovel until the end of the storm. A thousand people tramping down your snow makes for an icy mess.)

The city is shut down tomorrow to allow for cleanup, since roads became treacherous after sundown and they had to pull the buses from service until morning.

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January 13, 2019

gandhi, 6 p.m.
posted by soe 1:39 am

Here’s what the Gandhi statue looked like earlier this evening, just before the snow started sticking to the pavement.

Gandhi, 6 p.m.

Six hours later, we were about three inches deep.

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January 12, 2019

new footwear
posted by soe 1:15 am

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I went shopping for slippers.

Nearly nine years ago, Rudi visited Austria and Germany with his mom to see family friends and visit the town in which she spent her adolescence. One of those friends owns a lederhosen shop that also sells other clothing, including woolen slippers. Rudi and his mom each came home with a pair of felt clogs. Rudi wore them a bit, but they were warm and eventually I appropriated them. And wore them into the ground. Quite literally.


The holes in the toes appeared first, but you can ignore those. Then the holes in the heels, but, again, as long as you don’t step in liquid, mostly not a huge deal. Last winter the top of the slippers started to separate from the soles, and I started hunting for a replacement, but let’s be honest: what you find at the end of the winter at TJ Maxx is going to pale in comparison with handmade woolen slippers from the Alps.

This week, though, the thread that holds the edging around the top of the foot hole started to unravel, and I knew our time together was up. Pale or not, new slippers must be acquired.

Luckily, immediately after Christmas is an excellent time to shop for slippers at TJ Maxx, because slippers are a pretty common gift, so they bump up their supply and then immediately after the holidays discount much of what remains to get rid of it, probably to make way for bathing suits.

Anyway, I came home with two pairs that will work, each of which was marked down to $8.

New Slippers

Right now this blue pair is definitely my favorite of the two. They won’t last me ten years, but that’s probably okay. I had forgotten how warm it is to wear slippers without holes in them.

More New Slippers

These red scuffs are a little smaller, but I won’t need to wear them out and about and they will get less poofy as I wear them, so I expect they’ll work just fine. However, I’ve kept them in the bag with the receipt so if I decide I don’t need two pairs I can take them back.

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January 11, 2019

bargain, cleared up, and little christmas
posted by soe 1:33 am

Little Christmas Presents

Three beautiful things from my past week:

1. I went to the store to find new slippers and came home with a cheerful orange dress that should be appropriate to wear to a new job — and that was marked down to $11 in clearance.

2. Although there was a gusty wind and a chill in the air, the sky was blue and the sun was out today.

3. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, so thanks to Rudi’s mom being born in Russia, he grew up with a “Little Christmas” in addition to the more traditional Western celebration on Dec. 25. He gave me two very pretty skeins of fingering weight yarn and a purple faux fur pompom that you see above.

How about you? What’s been beautiful in your world lately?

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